COVID-19

Frequently Asked Questions

A Organização Mundial de Saúde (OMS) declarou no dia 11 de março de 2020, a pandemia de Covid-19, doença causada pelo novo coronavírus (Sars-Cov-2).

What should cancer patients do to protect themselves from the coronavirus (covid-19)?

Cancer patients should not, under any circumstances, stop their treatment on their own, whether it is chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or surgery. Every decision regarding treatment must be made together with the healthcare team.

What changes in cancer treatment with the Covid-19 pandemic?

Treatment cannot stop. Clinics are prepared to ensure your safety, with full attention to your immunity. Patients should maintain their treatment schedules, informing their doctors if they have symptoms of Covid-19 or have come into contact with someone infected so that the best course of action can be determined for each case. For your convenience and safety, please talk to your doctor about the possibility of a telemedicine consultation.

Are there specific guidelines to avoid infection in cancer patients?

The usual recommendations for cancer patients should be followed and reinforced, such as the use of masks and frequent hand washing. In addition, frequent cleaning of the most used surfaces, such as tables and counters, should be done, avoiding crowds, and keeping a minimum distance of 2 meters between people.

How can the patient distinguish between symptoms of the coronavirus and symptoms that are due to treatment?

It is necessary to individualize case by case to provide reassurance to patients. So when you have any symptoms such as fever, flu-like symptoms, or gastrointestinal symptoms, tell your doctor.

What can be done to increase immunity in immunosuppressed patients?

There are specific protocols for certain cancer treatments, but there is not something that can be done routinely outside of those protocols to boost patients’ immunity to cope with the coronavirus. It is important to have a healthy routine, eat well, do meditation, yoga, and get a good night’s sleep. You can download here a booklet with dietary guidelines that help boost immunity.

Should cancer patients get the flu vaccine?

Cancer patients, in general, should be immunized. However, before making this decision, the patient should contact their doctor and follow his or her advice.

How should patients who need to undergo tests proceed?

Always consult your doctor so that he/she can indicate the best course of action. If you need to have the exam, don’t postpone it and follow the prevention recommendations. Clinics are prepared, with all safety, to receive you. Ask about the possibility of home care.

Is there any specific care for those who are undergoing radiotherapy?

Each case will be evaluated individually, first undergoing pre-screening, and then a joint evaluation by the oncologist and the radio-oncologist. The doctors’ guidelines must be followed to the letter.

What would be worth recommending to cancer patients to keep their composure in these pandemic times?

First of all, seek information from reliable sources, with your doctor or the treatment clinic. Have routines, take care of your diet, your body, and your mind. Keep your house clean and organized, and try to live moments of joy at home and with your family. This will bring positive results for your immunity. Avoid watching the news; if you want to get information about the Covid-19 situation, prefer to read some news for a certain time during the day, without spending too much time absorbed by this information. Too much information causes anguish and more anxiety, decreasing your well-being.

Try to do activities that give you pleasure, such as reading a book, preparing tasty food, calling a friend, listening to music, or any other activity that you enjoy.

How does coronavirus contamination occur?

Hands are the main vehicle of contamination. Clean them frequently because the virus can remain alive on any surface. Contamination can also occur by airborne droplets, so it is important to wear a mask and stay away from other people, even if they are asymptomatic because the transmission of the disease can occur before the onset of symptoms and there are many carriers of the virus who remain asymptomatic throughout their illness.

Are there any specific groups among cancer patients who are at higher risk than others for contracting Covid-19?

The risk of contracting Covid-19 is higher for immunosuppressed patients, as are all infectious diseases, so care should be intensified. The most severe forms of the disease are associated with comorbidities such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, especially if decompensated, and smoking. Therefore, it is important that cancer patients keep control of their health, following the medical and multidisciplinary team’s recommendations.

What precautions should the people who live or live directly with the oncologic treatment patient have in this pandemic phase?

Care with hygiene already recommended should be reinforced: wash your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds, take a shower and change clothes whenever you come from an external environment, and keep the recommended physical distance of 2 meters, even indoors. Sanitize food and packages with water, soap, and sanitary water. Frequently sanitize common surfaces and avoid sharing cutlery and utensils. If possible, use separate bathrooms or always use sanitary water after use.

In a situation of coronavirus diagnosis, how to treat the oncology patient?

Oncology patients should follow medical advice. The patient with Covid-19 should remain in isolation to avoid contamination of others within the home and the spread of the disease. You should seek emergency care if you have symptoms such as persistent fever, mental confusion, chest pain, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing. If possible, you should monitor oxygen saturation with a portable oximeter and share the information with the reference nurse where you receive your treatment.

Is there a treatment scale that predicts when a hospitalization should be interrupted?

Today, part of the oncologic treatments in non-hematologic patients (who don’t have leukemia, for example) are at an outpatient level and do not involve hospitalization, which makes the risk lower. All the clinics in the Oncoclínicas group have taken every care to ensure that the patients have the least possible exposure, reiterating that the treatments should not be interrupted.

Treatments that require hospitalization, such as elective oncologic surgeries previously scheduled, must be discussed with the oncologist and the surgeon in charge; if there is no damage to the oncologic treatment, these surgeries can be postponed to avoid the circulation of patients in the hospital environment.

For patients who are candidates for a bone marrow transplant, this is a treatment that is scheduled on an elective basis and that must be evaluated by a hematologist.

Inside Oncoclínicas, all the doctors are attentive to the particularities of each patient and have been interacting with them, even by phone, to orient them about the next steps of the treatment during this pandemic period. Social isolation is the basic prevention for the entire population.

Do patients in remission belong to the coronavirus risk group?

If the person is not on ongoing treatment, they should consult their oncologist to evaluate if there is a case of residual immunosuppression. Apart from that, the patient should follow the prevention guidelines.

Once infected with the coronavirus, how should cancer patients be treated?

Once the diagnosis of Covid-19 is established, the oncologic treatment will be suspended until the evolution of the condition, regardless of whether the patient is asymptomatic or not, because of the isolation to which the patient is subjected and the treatment with potential immunosuppression, in the case of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, with the infection in progress.

The patient would have to wait for the evolution of this condition and discuss the details with the doctor to define the ideal moment for the oncologic treatment to be resumed – which will probably be after the complete resolution of the infection’s clinical condition.

In transplant patients without vaccine, are the risks higher than in other cancer patients?

Yes, because in the post-transplant period the patient’s immune system remains affected for some time.

In the case of going out for the vaccine, what would be the ideal conduct regarding prevention?

The measures to contain the infection may not be 100% effective. We recommend that the person goes at a time when the place is not crowded, use a mask properly, keep a distance between people, and always clean hands. The professionals who will apply the vaccine should also follow the cleaning protocol.

How to sanitize the surfaces and with which products?

Sanitizing can be done with any detergent, disinfectant, or hypochlorite. Alcohol 70% shows great efficiency, besides being easy to use.

Should cancer patients also stay away from children, just like the elderly?

Children are more likely to be infected and are usually asymptomatic, so they should stay away.

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